Peabody, MA -- When the COVID-19 crisis escalated into a global pandemic, it was only a matter of weeks before normal, everyday life was upended.
Terms like "social distancing" and "personal protective equipment" became fixtures in our vernacular, as we battled a threat unlike any in recent history.
Erickson Living's management team enacted preventative measures before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States.
"All across our family of communities, residents and staff are taking extraordinary steps to protect the health and safety of our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and caregivers," wrote Alan Butler, Erickson Living's chief executive officer, in a letter to the enterprise's 27,000 residents and 14,000 employees. "I am confident that we will look back on this unprecedented health event and be proud of how well we cared for each other."
Brooksby Village's executive team meets regularly to assess and evaluate how best to combat the virus' spread.
Staff members across the community are assuming roles outside of their typical scope of work to meet the evolving needs within the community as residents abide by Massachusetts' stay-at-home order.
Dining services pivoted to meal delivery service, taking meals directly to residents' apartments. Concierge services mobilized to deliver packages and mail, ensuring residents didn't have to enter common spaces to retrieve items.
"The staff has taken very good care of us," says Merle. "Even when everything was changing so fast, they still found ways to reach out. The students who work in dining services wrote notes that they delivered with our meals. One note said, 'Packed with a little love and sunshine.'"
Consistent flow of information
As in any crisis situation, communication is key. And Brooksby Village's communication with residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic made the most of channels already in place.
"The communication has been phenomenal," says Merle. "The executive team keeps us informed using television, phones, letters on the shelves outside our apartments, and the My Erickson app."
Brooksby's in-house television studio airs regular updates and information from Executive Director Tracie Bettano, Associate Executive Director Justin Paradis, and Dr. Louis Giorgio, the community's medical director.
"I know it's difficult to alter your lives to such a great degree, but what we're doing to prevent the spread is working," says Giorgio. "I've been impressed with the coordinated efforts to work together and keep everyone safe."
Extensive screening procedures at Brooksby Village's front gate ensure only essential personnel entered the community.
"The staff's primary goal is to keep us healthy and safe," says Merle. "Brooksby Village is doing a wonderful job taking care of us."
Social distancing engagement
While the social benefits of living in community have been minimized during the COVID-19 situation, residents and staff have found ways to stay connected.
"Our team of employees across Brooksby Village have been great creative partners for social distancing engagement," says Bettano. "I've always known we have a special team at Brooksby Village, but it's times like these that you find out what you're made of. Our team has stepped up at every turn."
Matthew Connery, resident services manager, hosts a trivia challenge on Brooksby TV, encouraging residents to participate via email.
"We know this is a challenging time, and we want to do everything we can to keep you engaged, entertained, and hopefully even a little bit competitive," said Connery.
Fitness specialists lead workouts via Brooksby TV, and the pastoral ministries team keep opportunities for prayer, meditation, and song alive through regular television programming.
United while apart
Residents, too, have found ways to connect while physically separated. The Resident Advisory Council (RAC) organized an initiative called Resident to Resident Connection, leveraging a system already in place. Each residential building has a building facilitator and floor captains tasked with ensuring information flows between staff and residents.
"Our floor captains called other neighbors on their floor to check in and make sure everyone's okay," says Joan Santeusanio, chair of the RAC. "It's human nature to want to interact with others, so phone calls became even more important while we were in our apartments."
The spread of COVID-19 and subsequent disruption of daily life proved the strength, creativity, and connection of Brooksby Village's community members.
"Everyone who is part of our Brooksby Village family played a huge part in our response to the COVID-19 situation," says Bettano. "We've been saying from day one, 'We've got this,' and we do."
About Brooksby Village: Brooksby Village is one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living® and is situated on a scenic 90-acre campus in Peabody, Massachusetts. The not-for-profit community, located in Essex County, is home to 1,700 residents and is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Brooksby Village can be found at BrooksbyVillage.com.
Written by Sara Martin